What was supposed to be a fun, day-long music festival at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds turned into a night the Denton family will never forget.
After the crowd dispersed from the Rhythm on the Rock festival on July 23, James Denton, 19, was stabbed around 11:30 p.m. near the entrance to G.P. Vanier Secondary School.
He later died at St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Comox.
The 16-year-old suspect, who cannot be named due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, made his first appearance late July in front of a packed courtroom, filled with family members.
“We’re going to be here until this kid pays and goes away,” said James’ father David Denton in July, adding he plans to attend every court appearance.
“Every time my son’s name is mentioned, I’ll be right beside him.”
At every subsequent court appearance, family and friends gathered on the lawn of the Courtenay courthouse, holding signs and sporting Justice for James T-shirts before filling the gallery of the courtroom.
Denton was raised in Port Hardy and attended Highland Secondary School in Comox.
James’ uncle Leon Cake described Denton as a straight-A student who was working for BC Hydro and was at the festival to have some fun.
“He got what he did not deserve,” he noted in July, holding back tears. “No reasons … he was an innocent 19-year-old kid. It was just a young man who made a stupid mistake, for what reasons?”
Family friend Brian Norman remembered James fondly.
“That was the coolest part about James — he lived his life as an example. He didn’t tell people what to do, he just showed them,” Norman said.
During a court appearance in October, Crown prosecutor Gordon Baines and defence lawyer Michael Mulligan agreed to stay the charge of first-degree murder against the suspect, instead seeking a charge of second degree, although Baines added that Crown will seek an adult sentence against the suspect if convicted.
In mid-December, Baines filed for a direct indictment to Supreme Court, which was approved to remove the preliminary inquiry.
James’ mother Brenda Denton told the Record she is very satisfied there will be no preliminary inquiry, which was originally scheduled for Feb. 6, 2012.
“We’re quite pleased. It’s certainly going to help speed up the process,” she said.
A trial is now set in B.C. Supreme Court in Courtenay for June 4 to 22, 2012.